complete street, complete subway: a vision for a grander grand concourse, part 2

In Part 1 of this series, I gave an overview of my vision for a complete Grand Concourse, including dedicated bus lanes, protected bike lanes, and traffic redistribution. In this part, I will expound on my ideas for better bus service.

I. Existing Concourse Bus Service

Three buses serve the Grand Concourse – the Bx1, Bx2, and BxM4.

[Bx1 Limited and Bx2 Local]

The Bx1 operates between Riverdale – 231st Street and Mott Haven – 136th Street, all times except late nights. It operates limited-stop service along the entire length of the Grand Concourse 6 days a week (Monday through Saturday), while making local stops early mornings, evenings and all day Sunday.

The Bx2 operates between Kingsbridge Heights – Fort Independence Street and Mott Haven – 136th Street, all times except late nights. It operates local service along most of the Grand Concourse before diverting at 149th Street to serve The Hub.

The Bx2 is generally more frequent than the Bx1; however, both buses run less often during the summer when school is out. Thanks to recent service cuts (separate from the seasonal summer cuts), each route generally runs every 12 minutes on weekends.

Recall that both routes comprise the 6th-busiest bus corridor in NYC.

[Fig. 1] Bx1/Bx2 route map as found on the Bx1/Bx2 schedule.

[Fig. 2] Bx1 (light blue) and Bx2 (orange) routes, including all bus stops. Designed using Brand New Subway.

Let’s also recall, from the Bus Turnaround site:

  • Bx1 average speed: 6.6 MPH; arrives in bunches 12.1% of the time.
  • Bx2 average speed: 5.3 MPH; arrives in bunches 14.6% of the time.

Lovely, ain’t it?

[BxM4 Express]

The BxM4 operates between Woodlawn – 242nd Street and Midtown – 26th Street, all times except late nights. It provides express service via the Grand Concourse and 5th Avenue (downtown) or Madison Avenue (uptown). Among full-time express bus routes in The Bronx, it is the least frequent (half-hourly during rush hours and hourly all other times) and has the lowest ridership. (It is the only full-time express bus in The Bronx with an annual ridership under 100,000.)

[Fig. 3] BxM4 route map as found on the BxM4 schedule.

The express bus structure further limits ridership (and consequently, revenue) due to the lack of turnover:

[Fig. 4] Pick-up and drop-off stops in each direction on the BxM4.

Given all these issues, what role can a complete Concourse play in improving bus service?

II. A Model for Improving Concourse Bus Service

The first step to improving bus service on the Grand Concourse is to complete the Concourse (a “Complete Street” is a street optimized for all users – pedestrians, cyclists, transit users, and motorists); recall my model of a complete Concourse from part 1 of this series:

[Fig. 5] A hypothetical model of a complete Grand Concourse, showing one block.

Dedicated bus lanes will substantially curb the bunching problem, which afflicts both the Bx1 and the Bx2. Bus lanes will also enable another much-needed improvement – upgrading the Bx1 Limited to the Bx1 Select:

[Fig. 6] An idea for implementing Select Bus Service on the Bx1 (blue) and service enhancements on the Bx2 (orange). The figure highlights proposed Bx1 Select bus stops.

Allow me to explain this idea in detail.

[Bx1 Improvements]

  • Operate the Bx1 Select 7 days a week, with local service overnight via its current route or the Bx2 route (depending on ridership and travel patterns); the Bx1 Select would run much more often than the current Bx1.
  • Reroute the Bx1 to follow the Bx10 route between Broadway – 231st Street and Van Cortlandt Ave W – Sedgwick Ave; this routing avoids some sharp curves and narrow streets traversed by the current route.
  • Eliminate the stop at 144th Street and Grand Concourse (roughly 800 feet from the 149th Street stop) to speed service.
  • Extend the Bx1 from its current Mott Haven terminus to West Harlem – 125th Street to enhance connectivity to other bus routes and subways; dedicated bus lanes and faster service can free up resources for such an extension.
    • Trivia: the original Bx1 served Harlem – albeit briefly – when it began service in the 1920s.

[Bx2 Improvements]

  • Extend the route to Riverdale – 231st Street to provide local service in place of the Bx1 on Heath Ave.
  • Consolidate some bus stops by spacing them every 2-3 blocks instead of 1-2 blocks; in my plan, this results in 6 fewer stops end-to-end.
  • Increase Bx2 service.

[BxM4 Improvements]

A complete Concourse would help the BxM4 by separating it from mixed traffic; this improves reliability and decreases travel time, which can encourage ridership. To further build ridership, allow pick-ups and drop-offs at some stops.

As a starting point:

  • For southbound BxM4 buses, allow pick-ups and drop-offs at 158th Street, 125th Street, and 96th Street.
  • For northbound BxM4 buses, allow pick-ups and drop-offs at 99th Street, 123rd Street, and 161st Street.

However, this isn’t enough; the current express bus fare ($6.50 one-way, $59.50 for an “Express Bus Plus” weekly pass that also includes subways and local buses) is prohibitive for many riders. I’d set the express bus fare at twice the subway fare, which in this case lowers the one-way fare to $5.50. Given that the current pass requires 10 express bus rides to pay for itself (the exact number is about 9.15), I’d lower the cost of said pass to $50.

In any case, The Bronx’s express bus network may need a complete overhaul à la Staten Island; I’ll explore these issues in a future post on express buses.

In Part 3 of this series, I will explore ideas for improving and expanding subway service along the Grand Concourse.

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